A romance online, a journey to Malaysia from China and the sudden reality: Maria Exposto’s backpack was full of drugs!
The story is a classic one, involving online scams and fake romance. In this case, the grandmother from Australia was lucky to escape the gallows in Malaysia.
When she fell for the internet romance, she did not know it was a scam until her arrest at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia.
The authorities arrested her for drug trafficking and she was sentenced to death. But her lawyers fought hard for her in her appeal.
They argued she was the “perfect textbook dummy” and the victim of an online romance scam.
Online romance scam
Online romance scam involves money contribution to the scammer from the victim and Maria did not escape that.
It started when she met a “Captain Daniel Smith” online. The fake captain used a stereotyped story as his modus operandi.
His story is a classic scammer story. A U.S. soldier stationed in Afghanistan his wife had died in a car accident and he is the father of a teenage son.
After a couple of years flirting online Exposto had sent money to “Smith” then she flew to Shanghai in 2014 to meet him.
She went to Shanghai to give him a hand in lodging documents for his retirement from the military.
Though one wonders how she could do that, being a civilian from another country, Exposto went all the way from Australia to Shanghai.
When “Captain Smith” did not show up, the grandmother did not feel suspicious when she met a friend of Smith.
The latter asked her to take a black backpack to Melbourne. She did not check the bag, thinking there were clothes in it.
In transit, the plane landed at the KLIA airport in Malaysia where a scan of her bag showed ‘something green’.
This is when the authorities in Malaysia discovered 1.5 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine in the bag.
The High Court in Malaysia acquitted her in December 2017 after the judge found she was scammed by her online boyfriend.
She was unaware it was drugs in the backpack which did not belong to her, was the judge’s argument. She was free.
But not for long. In May 2018 prosecutors got the death penalty against her on appeal.
Faced with death by hanging, her powerful lawyers in Malaysia reversed the sentencing on appeal.
she appealed and with the help of very powerful lawyers in Malaysia, the conviction was overturned.
Her lawyer, Mohammad Shafee Abdullah, who is defending ex-Malaysian PM Najib Razak in a massive money laundering and corruption case, got her freed.